Digitally enabled infrastructure

Our transport system needs to be viewed as part of a wider system of connectivity – one that embraces both physical and digital access when identifying future infrastructure requirements.

Digital infrastructure allows us to ‘connect’ with a service, be it to better plan a journey through the use of intelligent transport systems, journey planning technologies or removing the need to travel at all.

Our modelling shows that a realistic pathway to decarbonisation includes a highly connected transport system – one that provides better transport information to the user, enables better management of the network and supports rapid deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles.

The transformative potential of improved digital connectivity to reduce the need to travel is particularly strong in rural areas, where digital services have traditionally been poor (for example, according to Ofcom, only 44% of rural premises in England have access to 4G, compared to 87% in urban areas), yet where there is often a high reliance on journeys by private car (according to census data, 64% of residents living in the Heartland’s predominantly rural districts normally drive themselves to work, compared to an average of 55% across England and Wales).

Our approach will ensure the Heartland seizes the opportunity for change – change in work patterns, change in travel patterns, change in our approach to connectivity.

What we're doing

Long-term vision (ongoing)

EEH is working with Satellite Applications Catapult and our partners to create a long-term vision for a 5G and satellite-enabled digital strategy.

Impact of remote working (2021)

Research commissioned by England’s Economic Heartland revealed how the legacy of COVID-19 could transform capacity on the region’s roads.

It found that if people who commuted by car pre-COVID but then worked from home were to continue to do so for two days per week, 10-12% of peak hour traffic would be removed.

The modelling by City Science also shows how the impact differs across the Heartland due to differences in demographics, the sector-mix in the local economy, and the flows of specific roads.

The July 2021 launch of the report, 'Working from Home Propensity & Capacity Release', came as government ended its instruction to people to work from home if possible, following the easing of restrictions as England moved to the fourth step of the lockdown roadmap.

Prior to the pandemic just over 25% of the country’s workforce had some experience of working from home with around 12% doing so at least once per week. During the pandemic the number of days working from home quadrupled.

The new research will help inform strategic infrastructure planning throughout the region, which stretches from Swindon across to Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire down to Hertfordshire. This includes EEH’s programme of connectivity studies, starting with the Oxford-Milton Keynes and Peterborough-Northampton-Oxford corridors. EEH is also looking to engage with the business community to understand their perspectives on future working trends.